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Adam's Mailbag: Is Jason Kelce starting to regress?

Plus, should Kenjon Barner be featured more in the Eagles' offense?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Mailbag time!

I asked you all for your questions about the Birds ahead of Monday's game against the Bears, and you gave me plenty to choose from. Here's what I came up with.

Some Long Answers

@D_Tomei: Thoughts on impact of Ertz and possibly Burton out too? How does offense change with these 2 out on MNF?

Zach Ertz is almost guaranteed to be out for Monday’s game against the Bears. The Eagles don’t want to test his injury, and with an early bye week, the thought is he might not play again until Week 5. The way Doug Pederson talked about Trey Burton at his press conference Monday, it seems Burton will play against the Bears.

If Burton plays, the offense should look effectively the same as it did in Week 1. Burton isn’t the same level of a threat as Ertz is, but he has proven time and again to be a reliable pass-catcher, and is just as good a blocker at Ertz. While the Eagles didn’t get to use all three of their tight ends against the Browns, that didn’t stop Pederson from using three-tight end sets. Multiple times, like here, he brought Matt Tobin in as a third tight end:


The beauty of Pederson’s offense, which featured a good bit of pre-snap movement, often from one of his tight ends, is that the tight ends are receiving threats. On Ertz’s second catch of the the first quarter, both Celek and Ertz lined up as wide receivers on the right side:


With receiving threats in Ertz and Celek, or Burton and Celek on Monday night, opposing defenses have to commit at least one player to the third tight end as a receiving threat even when the Eagles stack two other tight ends on one side of the line and run the ball.

Typically in the past, three-tight end sets were reserved for goal line approaches. But Pederson is getting aggressive and creative with his.

Having this kind of personnel at his disposal means Pederson can stretch defenses horizontally,which limits their ability to stop runs for negative yardage. It’s a no-brainer to keep rolling out tight ends like this; hopefully, he’ll have at least two to use on Monday.

@hotcakes_33: Did the o-line play well enough or was it a mirage? Is Kelce the weak link now?

The Kelce question is a good one, and a concern I’ve seen mentioned a decent amount since Sunday.

Let’s take a look at another three-tight end set, and try to diagnose what limits Ryan Mathews’ forward progress here:


Matt Tobin doesn’t do the best job here, and Brent Celek needs to get more of a body on his man, but Kelce simply gets beat clean here, and his man is the first Browns player able to get a piece of Mathews as he tries to hit the hole.

Kelce wasn’t himself last season, but basically no one in the Eagles’ offense played well last year. With the injuries to key OL pieces, it was at least fair to wonder whether Kelce’s struggles were due to his overcompensating for the backup-level play around him.

In Week 1, his teammates were all healthy, and he still struggled at times, both in run blocking and pass blocking.

Here, Kelce initially has his man in control, but a pretty straightforward reversal of direction catches him off-guard:


Kelce can’t recover in time, and his man gets a shot in on Carson Wentz, as well as rushes Wentz’s throw. Jordan Matthews had a half-step on his man; if Wentz has an extra second to wind up and get the ball where he wants it, who knows how this play ends? This is an example of Kelce just getting beat one-on-one, when his responsibilities don’t entail anything else. This is a play that falls on his shoulders.

In this run play, Kelce has his shortcomings, but at least he’s not the only offensive lineman letting things through the cracks:


Brandon Brooks pulls and seals his man off, but Kelce’s roll block doesn’t do much to his man, who’s able to hurdle Kelce and initiate contact with Mathews. Jason Peters also allows a little too much from his man, but the brunt of the blame here is still on Kelce. If he’s able to seal his man off, there are no other defenders to the right. Mathews could have bounced outside, around the solid seal from Brooks, and waltzed into the end zone. Instead, Kelce’s man beats him and brings Mathews down after just two yards.

Now, it wasn’t all bad for Kelce, and not all of the bad from the offensive line was from him. The line kept the pocket relatively clean for Wentz on most plays, and even on the plays he took hits, it was normally because Wentz was waiting for something to open up downfield and was holding the ball. On both of his touchdown passes, Kelce and the rest of the line kept the rush at bay long enough for Wentz to get off perfect throws.

There's plenty of work to be done, but it's not panic time yet.

@Dada_Fatal: Will Barner get a bigger share of the workload at running back? Nice change of pace compared to Mathews.

I liked the way Barner played in Week 1. I agree he’s a good change of pace from Mathews; when the run play is within the tackles, Barner doesn’t pack as much of a punch, but he seems to hit emerging holes a little faster than Mathews does. I liked the way he attacked this play, where he picked up four yards:


As soon as he saw a speck of daylight, Barner darted towards it. He’s good at seeing developing lanes, and his speed enables him to get to most of them for at least a few yards.

What I want to see more of out of Barner, though, is realizing when he should be bouncing it outside. His speed is so much more valuable outside of the tackles and in open space.

On his first run of the day, for example, he had a chance to take this run outside but decided instead to initiate contact and bring it back inside.


He only gained a yard, when he probably could have picked up five or six, at least, had he bounced it to the left.

Thankfully, he’d learned his lesson by the time Wentz handed it off to him late in the second quarter. This is a great run, and the quick bounce-cutback he pulls off to get to the second level reminded me of a LeSean McCoy direction change.


Barner ran the ball four times for 42 yards against Cleveland; I’d like to see him get double that work on Monday night. Ryan Mathews running the ball 22 times isn’t an exorbitant amount, but for such a brittle running back, there’s no reason for Mathews’ count to be that high when Barner is ready and able.

* * *

Some Quick Hitters

@DanS_SotS: How many targets does Trey Burton see on Monday?


@majorSH0CK: What are the chances Jalen Mills starts outside?

60-40, in favor.

@phillyfan2292: We're gonna resign Bennie right?


@LyndonT2: Predict Eagles record


@jaiden_saxon: Steady increase in snaps for DGB or not yet?

*soon emoji*

* * *

Some Silly Stuff

@cjhynes09: I know the eagles are projected a bit weak this you think they could beat the 1937 E. PA Conf champions Dragons?

Drexel University (which no longer has a football program) is the greatest athletic powerhouse the state of Pennsylvania has ever seen. Carson Wentz wouldn’t stand a chance.

@philatticus: Do you think Carson Wentz eats veal?

He hunts geese and listens to worship music before games. He absolutely eats veal.

@killakow: Do you listen to Lou Bega?

I don’t listen to Lou Bega. I had to Google who that was. I learned he is the Mambo No. 5 guy. Good song. I don’t listen to Lou Bega.

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